(Little Matsui, Matchan)
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 185 lb.
- High School PL Gakuen
- Debut April 6, 2004
- Final Game May 18, 2010
- Born October 23, 1975 in Higashi-osaka, Osaka, Japan
Kazuo Matsui was a major star in Japan, playing in Nippon Professional Baseball from 1995 to 2003, before he signed a contract with the New York Mets prior to the 2004 season. His major league career started with a bang, as he hit a home run in his first at-bat for the Mets. However, overall his time in the Big Apple was a disappointment, as he was often injured, and his production was less than expected.
Matsui revived his career with an excellent season for the Colorado Rockies in 2007. That was the year the Cinderella team was unbeatable down the stretch, beat the San Diego Padres in a one-game playoff for the National League wild card, then was unbeated in the first two rounds of the postseason to reach the World Series for the first time in its history. Matsui was a key contributor, batting second in the line-up where he contributed lots of hits and stolen bases.
His good form in Colorado allowed him to sign a lucrative contract with the Houston Astros before the 2008 season, worth $16.5 million over three years. He sank back to mediocrity in his first two seasons with his new team, then was absolutely awful at the start of the 2010 season. He hit .141 with a single RBI in 27 games before earning his unconditional release on May 19; he was still nominally the team's starting second baseman at that point, although he had progressively lost playing time to Jeff Keppinger due to his failure to hit. He then signed on as a free agent back with the Rockies,but spent the remainder of the year at AAA Colorado Springs, where he hit .262 in 82 games. After the season, he signed a contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, ending his seven-year sojourn in the United States.
No one has ever hit for the cycle in a major league postseason game. The two players who have come closest missed the feat by a single: Lou Brock in Game 4 of the 1968 World Series, and Matsui in Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS.
Matsui was the first player ever to hit home runs in the first at-bat of his first two major league seasons (2004 and 2005). Remarkably, he then homered in his first at-bat of 2006. Jason Heyward then became the second player to start his first two seasons this way, in 2010 and 2011.